Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A year of Slackware, already?

Wow, its been over a year since I left Debian in the dust for Slackware.   The road was bumpy at first, but I learned a lot by following that road wherever it brought me.  I learned things about Linux and have expanded my skill set more in this last year than I ever did running Debian for the previous 10 years.  My main motivation when I left Debian behind was to rid myself of the dreadful systemd abomination.  At the time I was unaware of how blissfully ignorant and stale my computing life had become.   In fact, I am writing today partly out of frustration developed due to the uninformed opinion in this article.  The other reason is as a bit of a follow up to this archived article from last year.

When I first loaded Slackware up on my laptop, I found myself asking several questions.  Several of these questions were formed due to fundamentally flawed expectations.  Some of these questions were:

  • Where is the package manager?
  • How do I find the dependencies I need when installing software?
  • Why does Slackware use so much disk space?

I found myself in a position where I was being forced to learn or abandon the notion of using Slackware all together.  After considering my options, I realized that the Slackware installation media contains great documentation.  A quick search on Google for "Slackware documentation," yielded a complete wiki dedicated to Slackware.  There is even a whole book available geared specifically to the new Slackware user.  The Slackbook.

Anyway, over the last year I've been met with a very positive outcome while exclusively running Slackware on all my systems.  The thing about Slackware is you cannot expect to just sit down and roll your face on the keyboard to achieve desired results.  Slackware does not compare to Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch, or any other active Linux distribution.  Debian GNU/Linux is almost as old as Slackware.  However, the design and development philosophies couldn't be further apart in comparison.  Slackware does not hold your hand with a fancy graphical interface.  You are expected to read documentation, to research a little bit, and try things before asking for help.  A little bit of effort is required.

I have no ill will towards Jessie Smith.  However, I don't think he spent a lot of time researching Slackware before he wrote that article for Distro Watch.  In fact, I do not think he spent very much time actually using Slackware before sharing his experience.  You simply cannot turn on any system and expect to master it in a few hours or even a few days.  It takes time, which I guess Jessie Smith does not have a lot of, or his review would have been much different.  His lack of detail lead him to a lack of accuracy.  His experience would be much different If he read some of the introductory Slackware documentation.

The most frustrating part in his article for me was where he describes package management, depenencies, and functionality.  Slackware comes with all the software required to have a fully functional server or a desktop.  All dependencies are included on the installation disc, which is why a FULL installation is recommended.  The package manager, "slackpkg" doesn't need to provide dependency resolution because the Slackware developers provide everything you need to run every piece of software shipped on the installation medium.  For desktops, everything you need to browse the web, check email, write documents, compile code, listen to music, and watch videos, is already included.  For servers, everything needed to serve a web site, DNS, DHCP, E-mail, FIle sharing, printing, or what have you.  All included and very convenient.  Such functionality makes it difficult to develop because even small changes can have adverse effects on the package tree.

I do not mean to turn this post into a rant.  I find it very difficult to process a biased article that was written by someone who has used Slackware so little.  That article Mr. Smith wrote, lead me to lose respect for distro watch.  That type of bias and lack of experience has no place in the media.  That type of attitude is what causes rifts in the Linux community.  It would be refreshing if top Linux news sources made it a policy to hire writers that made a little bit more effort before publishing misleading articles.